Unexpected Expat

Surprised to discover that I am part of the world of expats, when I thought I was more of an immigrant. Where do you fit in on the continuum of ‘expat-ness’?

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Create a career you can take with you wherever you are in the world!

I believe that you are able to create the career you want, to craft it into the shape and form that brings you the most joy, wherever you happen to be in the world. My definition of the word career includes all aspects of your life – work, home, leisure, and learning –   and not just what you do for a paycheck. I first heard the term ‘career crafting’ used by Grey Poehnell around 2001. He described his hobby of weaving and choosing different colours and textures to create his own fabric. The metaphor of crafting emphasizes the idea of actively giving shape and form to your career through the choices you make throughout your life. When you also think of your career as being multi-faceted, of having many different elements woven together to make a whole, you can see how all your life choices combine to create your unique career. Your choices lie in: how you combine your different life-roles: parent, partner, daughter/son, sibling, friend, sports enthusiast,  community member, mentor, learner, occupation, etc. what elements you choose to give the most priority to and find most satisfying what skills and qualities you choose to invest in the different aspects of your life how you weave in economic and labour market factors All of these together determine how the fabric of your career will look. The way all these elements are incorporated make your career unique and yours alone. For a career to become portable or mobile it is essential that you start with this mindset of crafting your career. To start with appreciating what you have already woven into your career, of looking at the currently available threads and choosing those that will continue to take your career fabric in a personally desirable direction. It is also a time to step back and explore how your fabric could be looked at from a new angle and thus creating openings for unplanned threads to be woven in. There will always be more than one way of working a thread into your career fabric, and there will always be more than one thread available when you widen your perspective. A flexible and creative mindset is needed to widen your perspective. This is a mindset that recognizes that you have control over your responses to life events and that security comes from knowing your skills and finding ways to apply them. A mindset that is willing to see the choices available and recognize the options that seem to be most promising. A mindset that is flexible, creative and willing to take an informed risk. That sees a career as something you are continually adjusting and crafting as your life and life-roles develop and change, as the world develops and changes, and as you move from one location to another. A creative and crafting mind-set also provides the needed foundation to find ways around, over and through the hurdles and obstacles that appear along the way. Whether the hurdle is a language barrier, a work permit barrier, limited Internet access or a credential issue, creatively thinking from a transferrable skill perspective will generate options. This creativity is fed by the inspiring context of connections with the other people in your life, past and present. It is often the case that the perspective you need is sparked by your interaction with someone else. Using these perspectives and approaches, weave yourself a magic carpet career that will take you anywhere in the world!...

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Who Has More Stress: Working Expats or Accompanying Spouses?

This blog was inspired by the Expat Web LinkedIn Group question posted by Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach (June 2012), and responses posted by group members. The Brookfield Relocation Trends Survey 2012 clearly identifies that failure of the spouse (and family) to adapt well is the top reason identified by respondents for failure of an international assignment. So the survey would say the answer to this question is the spouse. The Brookfield 2012 survey also points out that most spouses who were employed prior to the posting still want to work while on assignment. There is a major identity shift that takes place on the part of the spouse in an international assignment. How one defines ‘career’ or ‘meaningful activity’ makes a big difference to the options available as an expat. There is no one-size-fits-all response from the company itself that will work for everyone. Take responsibility of managing the process for yourself and your own situation. So what are possible solutions? A finding in the Career Choice and the Accompanying Partner Summary Report, July 2012 (www.AccompanyingPartner.com) noted that the personal characteristics of the accompanying partner play a role in determining their sense of fulfillment while on assignment. In many ways it really comes down to the person themselves and how they approach it all. Key qualities that have been identified for success as an expat include: Flexibility Curiosity Empathy Sense of humor Sense of adventure Collaborative and social approach Respect for differences Cultural (self) awareness Realistic expectations (based on pre-assignment preparation)   Regarding expectations, understanding that relocation is a process and not an event can help. Frequent relocation means repeating the first parts of the process over and over again, without necessarily getting through the process far enough to feel ‘really settled’ or ‘at home’ in ways that may be important to you. Some people find the first parts of the process exhilarating and the last parts of the process boring. Others long for the last parts of the process they seem to never quite achieve before moving again. The Career Choice and the Accompanying Partner Summary Report, July 2012, found that those who had been abroad the longest reported the highest levels of fulfillment. Those in the first year of an assignment rated themselves as the most unfulfilled. These results may speak to the fact that those who have been through the process more often and perhaps more completely have developed the skills needed to succeed on assignment. Those at the beginning have yet to learn and more fully develop the skills that experienced accompanying partners have. It is unrealistic to expect to have relocating and adjusting all sorted out within a few months or even a year. Set yourself the goal to actively learn these skills and stay at it. Expat skills are highly transferrable to many settings and crossover with what are also called employability skills. What type of person are you? Respond to the statements below by answering if they are more true or more false for you. Change excites me. I long for adventure. I don’t like routine. I’m curious. I enjoy people, all kinds. I like it ‘my way’. I’m open to learning. I’m experienced with transition. I adjust plans along the way. I can ask for help. Knowing this about yourself, you can identify where you can learn, adjust and be more flexible in order to succeed as a person making international transitions. Whatever you do, don’t do it alone. Connecting and sharing with others online and especially where you are physically will make a huge difference. Journaling about your experiences...

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Your Own Why

Knowing your own why can make all the difference in your career and life. I came across this film clip today and wanted to share it with you. It is a 17 minute talk by Simon Sinek called ‘start with why’. His ‘golden circle’ elegantly explains this concept. He also explains how this circle expresses the brain’s natural functioning and gives insight into your own decision making. Knowing your own ‘why’ is a critical piece for doing what you do meaningfully and authentically. Being able to communicate your why is also something that convinces hiring managers that you are the person they cannot do without, in addition to your skills and competenties. Your why will keep you going in times when the going is difficult. It can give you focus and purpose. It will also help you say no when you need to. My own why is empowering people to make personally meaningful career choices. In other words, I want to help others connect with their why and find ways to live that out in their life and career. Let me know how I can help you....

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Getting ‘Un-stuck’

Sometimes you can feel ‘stuck’ in your life and career. It could seem like you’re just going through the daily routine without an idea of what for. You ask yourself why you are doing this and when will it end? Sometimes you need to know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel when you can’t see it yourself. What is good to know is that you can create that light yourself! A ‘career crisis’, as this could be termed, is often a lack of imagination or the ability to see a different future than the one currently in front of you. It could also be the inability to connect current activities with what’s really important to you in life. The career development process is one that assists people to gain the insights needed to get unstuck; to set goals, dream new dreams, learn more about themselves and find and create new opportunities.  Spring is just the time to get started on growing new things. The days are longer and often this is accompanied with new energy to plant seeds and nuture dreams. As a way to nurture the desire for something new, go for a walk outside and pay attention to all the spring changes you see. New shoots poking out of the ground. Buds on the trees with just a hint of green starting to poke out. Birds sitting in their nests keeping their eggs warm. Let go of your own worries and desire for changes and appreciate all the changes you see happening right in front of you.  After having had this experience you may find that you have created a little mental space for yourself to start dreaming something new or rediscovering an idea that was planted long ago. You may have a different way to create this space for yourself, but whatever you do do not get hung up on exactly how you are going to make it happen. The momentum you create by opening yourself up and dreaming your dream again will help you discover the next step. You will also no longer feel like you are stuck anymore. If you would like assistance getting ‘unstuck’, please contact me for a free information session. As a client recently said, it makes things so much clearer just to be able to talk about them....

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Career Traveller or Tourist?

When you think about your career it can be useful to use a metaphor to see how you are approaching your life’s work. I really love the traveller and tourist metaphor. In this metaphor, a tourist uses a plan, schedules everything and knows exactly what will happen and where they will be at what time. In contrast, a traveller is there to experience and connect with their journey. Not so much is preplanned and scheduled, leaving room for serendipity and adventures. Travellers are the ones sitting in the marketplace having conversations with the locals and learning about the place firsthand, instead of through a guidebook. I aspire to be a traveller in my career and life journey. When I learned about www.travbuddy.com and that you could make your own personalized travel map for free and see how much of the world you had already experienced, I couldn’t resist. I’m still focussed on the journey and I’m not wanting to just go somewhere and get the t-shirt, but it is fun to quantify what has happened so far! How have you approached your journey? Are you engaged in letting it unfold and experiencing all the adventure that life holds? Or are you looking for some security and a sense of predictability? This will make all the difference in how you are experiencing the events your life has brought....

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